Reince Priebus served as chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) from 2011–17 and was Trump’s first short-lived White House chief of staff (serving from Jan. 20–July 31, 2017). Previously he chaired the Wisconsin Republican Party and was an attorney with the Wisconsin law firm Michael Best & Friedrich.
Priebus has longstanding ties to right-wing Wisconsin politicians such as former U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and former Gov. Scott Walker. All three are tied to the Koch brothers network. Priebus unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the Wisconsin State Senate in 2004, and in early 2021, he considered a 2022 run for governor or senator from his home state of Wisconsin but ultimately decided against it.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Priebus was a sharp critic of Trump for his divisive and racist comments. In December 2015, for instance, he condemned the candidate’s proposed Muslim immigration ban, saying, “We need to aggressively take on radical Islamic terrorism but not at the expense of our American values.”
However, once Trump was elected and Priebus joined his administration, he became a loyal supporter—even after he got fired six months into his tenure. During his short stint as chief of staff, he tried to get the FBI to refute media reports about Trump’s connections to Russia, which prompted Esquire, among others, to brand him as “one of the most dangerously oblivious lightweights in the history of the Republic.” After the 2020 presidential election, Priebus helped bolster the Big Lie and pushed for audits in Arizona and Wisconsin.
January 6, 2021
- Once Mark Meadows, one of Priebus’ successors as chief of staff, handed over his texts to the House Select Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol, they revealed that Preibus wanted the administration to do more to quell the insurrection. Shortly after the riot broke out, Priebus frantically texted Meadows: “TELL THEM TO GO HOME!!!”
- Priebus disparaged the work undertaken by the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection. In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, he said the importance of the hearings to the American people would be a “one” out of 10 and said “we ought to have hearings about the things that are truly new and have to be figured out today.”
The Big Lie
- Priebus has been spreading lies about voter fraud since well before the 2020 election. In 2012, he claimed that because of voter fraud, Republican candidates “need to do a point or two better” to win statewide elections in Wisconsin. Given that he failed to offer any evidence to support his statement, PolitiFact labeled it “false.”
- After the 2016 election, Priebus defended Trump’s claim that “millions” of people had voted illegally, despite the complete lack of evidence to support the claim. He blamed undocumented immigrants for voting illegally, saying, without any evidence, that “there are estimates all over the map” on how many undocumented immigrants had cast ballots.
- Priebus called for a wide-ranging audit of the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin. During an appearance on Steve Bannon’s podcast War Room, he claimed that there had been significant illegal “ballot harvesting” in the state but provided no evidence to support his assertion.
- Priebus helped coordinate the legal team and outside technical support for the Arizona forensic audit. He coordinated with Randy Pullen, the former chairman of the Arizona Republican Party who was helping lead the audit, to find lawyers who could defend against a lawsuit filed by the state Democratic Party to block the audit.